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10 November 2007
S.P.Tamilselvan - Head of LTTE Political Division, Tamil Eelam]
want to say loudly and clearly that the values and aspirations
articulated and advanced by Mr. Tamilselvan are already eternally
engrained in the soul of the Tamil nation.
The Tamil people are engulfed by their collective grief. As we are all grievers, we do not know who to turn to for consolation. Tamil individuals lament the loss of a brother; and Tamil families grieve the loss of a son. The Tamil nation grieves, in the words of the Tamil National Leader, Mr. V. Pirahabaran, that it has lost “a great commander, an unparalleled political head, a diplomat who communicated with the entire world, and a skilled negotiator,” and the de facto state of Tamil Eelam mourns that it has lost one of its founding fathers.
The Tamil people around the world have not recovered from the shock and profound sadness over the sudden tragic end to the distinguished life of Mr. Tamilselvan. We still cannot grasp the fact that he is no longer physically with us. However, we want to say loudly and clearly that the values and aspirations articulated and advanced by Mr. Tamilselvan are already engrained in the soul of the Tamil nation eternally.
At this juncture, I am at a loss. I do not know whether to talk about his humanity - which was manifested in all of his interpersonal relationships, or whether to talk about his compassion, which was demonstrated by his response to the Tsunami catastrophe. Or should I talk about his commitment to the sanctity of the rule of law and the protection and promotion of human rights - which he enshrined in the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal submitted by the LTTE as a basis for the peace talks? Or should I talk about his negotiating skill and diplomatic prowess, which he exhibited in the last round of talks in Geneva - where he publicly stated that the LTTE was willing to discuss the core issues while addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of the people affected by the twenty-year long brutal civil war and, thereby, exposing the duplicity of the Sinhala political establishment? Should I delve into his profound understanding of international relations, which is presently governed primarily by the principles of realism, or about his commitment to democracy – as was shown when he called for an internationally supervised referendum to ascertain the wishes of the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka? Where do I even begin?
Mr. Tamilselvan was not only a great leader, but a warm human being. Even in the midst of war, whenever he called, the first question that he always asked was “Elder brother, how are you doing?,” usually followed by a question about how the children were doing. Many of us in this room were privileged to meet him during the ceasefire period, and to have had discussions with him. Two years ago, Mr. Tamilselvan addressed this audience via a video presentation. All of us were impressed and inspired by his concern for the welfare of the people and his commitment to the realization of the Tamils’ right to self-determination.
Mr. Tamilselvan was a multi-faceted person. Here is a glimpse of a day in his life immediately after the tsunami. In the mornings Mr. Tamilselvan would preside in meetings with the local NGOs and the members of the LTTE administrative unit in formulating a mechanism to address the tsunami victims’ needs. Following that, he would hold meetings with the members of the international NGOs, discussing ways of properly channeling foreign aid to the tsunami victims. In the afternoon, he would go to the refugee camps and console the tsunami victims and have discussions with community leaders and local priests about the conditions of the refugee camps. Soon after, he would make it out to the grounds, giving instructions to the volunteers about how to build tents. Finally, in the nighttime, he would meet with the Tamil National Leader and have discussions with him regarding the proposed course of actions in connection with reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Mr. Tamilselvan’s leadership qualities and his all-inclusive nature were displayed in the process of formulating the ISGA proposal. He brought together Tamils from all walks of life, from within the island as well as from outside. I would also like to mention that this was the first detailed political proposal put forward by the Tamil people during nearly five decades of struggle. The ISGA proposal also rendered false the propaganda of the Sinhala political establishment and the section of the international community that claimed that the LTTE was not interested in a peaceful resolution. In connection with this, I would also like to mention the remarks by Senator Patrick Leahy last week on the Senate floor, that the LTTE has, at times, shown a willingness to participate in serious negotiations, as well as to respond to human rights concerns.
During the peace process, the Sinhala political establishment was constantly engaged in propaganda, stating that the LTTE was not interested in discussing the core issues, but merely insisting on humanitarian issues so that they could regroup and rearm themselves. During the last round of talks, Mr. Tamilselvan stated that the LTTE was willing to discuss core issues and humanitarian issues simultaneously. He challenged the Sinhala establishment to discuss the core issues. However, the response from the Sinhala political establishment was that they were working on a proposal which would be ready during the latter part of 2006. As we all know now, there has been no such proposal yet. The fact of the matter is, there has been no consensus in the southern polity with respect to the Tamil National Question for the last fifty years. The Tamils, as well as students of Sri Lanka politics, have been aware of this fact for a long time. Without a southern consensus, there is very little chance for a political resolution.
At this juncture, it also should be recognized that, for a political solution to be reached, there should be an existing political community. Unfortunately, in the island of Sri Lanka, there is no single political community, nor a unified polity, but separate Sinhala and Tamil communities. A single polity cannot be constructed overnight. Through confidence-building measures and shared values, such a community can evolve. Cognizant of this fact, the LTTE proposed an interim political mechanism similar to the Machakos Proposal (Sudan), Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the Good Friday Agreement, known as the ISGA.
The present Sinhala politico-military establishment, with ever more blood on its hands from its war-crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocidal attacks, and systematic and pervasive human rights violations, should be given credit for one thing: the transparency of its agenda. It has made no attempts to argue that its military action is, in fact, designed in furtherance of a political resolution. It has stated that there is no traditional Tamil homeland, a principle agreed to previously even by the Sinhala establishment and by the international community, and has undone the merger of the Northeast. It has halted the All Party Representative Committee process. It has repeatedly stated that any kind of agreement should be within the current unitary constitutional framework. It has proudly proclaimed that the Tamil chief-negotiator was on the top of its hit list. In other words, it has sent a clear message that it still believes in a military resolution to the Tamil National Question and exposes the lie that it is interested in negotiating a peace process.
The question before the international community is: how much brutality and persecution can it tolerate for the sake of stability? The most important question for the international community, however, is to discern under what conditions stability will exist. We urge the international communities to take action based on the principles of realism, as well as the Woodrow Wilson tradition of idealism. It is instructive to note that a bipartisan study co-chaired by Richard Armitage, who was Deputy Secretary of State in Mr. Bush’s first term, and Joseph Nye, a Harvard scholar, argues that the war on terror should not be the central component of the U.S. global engagement. We urge the international community not to look at the suffering of the Tamils through the lens of the ‘war on terror.’ It is refreshing to hear Senator Hillary Clinton’s comment that all armed struggles cannot be painted with the same broad brush of terrorism.
The best way to cherish the memory of Mr. Tamilselvan is to rededicate ourselves to the journey toward the realization of the Tamils’ right to self-determination.